The Building Stones of Cambridge walking tour

30 July 2015

SCI Cambridge and Great Eastern held the Building Stones of Cambridge walking tour on 18 June. Attendees were treated to another fascinating tour of the building stones of Cambridge by Dr Nigel Woodcock, Director of Studies in Earth Sciences at University of Cambridge.

The visit involved about a mile and half of walking and took in a wide variety of buildings and rock types in the Cambridge city centre.

The group met at the Sedgwick Museum, in the John Watson Building Stones Collection and then they visited a wide variety of locations such as the back of Pembroke College for an example of water causing erosion of a modern white limestone wall, The Church of St Mary the Less ("Little St Mary"), the back of Peterhouse (for a brick and clunch wall), the Queen’s Lane and the Senate House Passage (old cobblestones).

The common building materials in Cambridge originated in the geological Middle Ages, the Mesozoic Era of one or two hundred million years ago. Older, Late Palaeozoic, rocks are not uncommon, particularly as facing and paving materials and yet older slates from the Early Palaeozoic Era, four or five hundred million years old, roof many Cambridge buildings.

Attendees viewed these building materials from a geological point of view and the rocks revealed the natural events which formed them and provided snapshots in the long geological history of Britain. Some of the rocks that can be found in Cambridge city center are: Pink and tiger-striped Anston limestone, golden Ketton stone, Collyweston stone slates, Cumbrian Honister green slate, N Wales dark grey slate, white Portland roach (shelly) and Portland Whitbed (fine grained, homogeneous).

The evening was great fun and the SCI Cambridge and Great Eastern committee will definitely ask Dr Woodcock back for another tour next year.

John Wilkins
Chair of Cambridge and Great Eastern Committee

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